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As Time Goes By: Last Year Of The Century

Eileen Perrin continues her vivid account of busy and throughly-enjoyed retirement.

To read earlier episodes of Eileen's life story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/as_time_goes_by/

Les had been a volunteer driver for Harrow Libraries Housebound Readers Service for some years and enjoyed his job. It had been interrupted for a month in 1998 when he had to attend Mount Vernon hospital every day for thirty days for radiotherapy treatment for cancer.

I had been referred to a specialist and went to Mount Vernon for a C.T. scan which showed everything to be normal. However, by the following year I had been put on medication for Meniere’s disease, which affected my balance and at times caused some tinnitus.

Early in 1999 in April we had a marvellous holiday in Sicily, in a hotel in the old port of Cefalu. We were taken to Palermo the capital, and on a long coach drive to the Valley of the Temples in south west Sicily. On the east side of the island in Syracuse there was a beautiful cathedral, the dramatic ruins of a Greek amphitheatre of 470 BC and a 6th century BC Greek temple.

We joined an evening class called ‘Web Wise’ to learn more about using a computer and Les joined a wood turning class.

At the end of June we went for a break in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, staying in Newton Solney at the Newton Park Hotel, the former residence of brewer William Worthington. We enjoyed many new sights in and around the Peak District, including the Monsal railway viaduct, Derby cathedral, the annual well-dressing week, Arkwright’s water mill, the Bass brewery and their stables in Burton-on-Trent, and the potters in the Crown Derby works.

In July we were in Bakewell and bought some cakes in the original Bakewell Tart shop. We went round the grand house of Chatsworth with its large collection of furniture, art and china, including Wedgwood.
Then on to Lichfield in Staffordshire, the home of Dr. Samuel Johnson. It was also the home of poet and naturalist Erasmus Darwin, who was a lifelong friend and doctor of Josiah Wedgwood. The Wedgwood china had always been exported to London via the canal system, as there were less breakages than sending it by cart over unmade roads.

Darwin founded a botanic garden in Lichfield and wrote an unbelievably long poem in two parts called ‘The Botanic Garden’.

We went home via Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, famous for its pork pies and Stilton cheese, and motored around Rutland Water.

On August 4th it was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s 99th birthday.
In August our neighbour Bernard entertained a group of Japanese High School pupils in his house and we were invited in. They showed us the tea ceremony, how to do origami, lettering in Chinese brushwork, one of the girls and a boy demonstrated karate, they sang the Beatles song ‘Hey Jude’ in English and ended up singing their school song. We were very impressed.

In September we went to Torquay staying overnight on the way there and on the way back in East Harnham at the Rose and Crown pub on the river Severn in Salisbury. We went over Oldway Manor in Paignton, one time home to American-born Isaac Singer who invented the Singer sewing machine in 1851.

Making the most of our time in Devon, we went over to Brixham and visited the house and gardens of Coleton Fishacre just outside the town. It was built by Rupert D’Oyly Carte. His father Richard built the Savoy Theatre in London to house the opera company.

Other places we called at were Buckfast Abbey, and Plymouth the home of Gordon’s Gin.

That autumn we had a new wooden floor laid in our hall.

In 1999 our eldest two grand - daughters Tara and Elizabeth had attained the age of twenty-one. Elizabeth had been on a college course for Art, but left before it was completed.

On December 21st Les went to Harrow Civic Centre to be presented by the Mayor with a Long Service Award for giving over ten years as a voluntary driver for Harrow Housebound Readers’ Service.

Christmas time we went to Cambridge to be with Val and his family in Dry Drayton. It was to be a very happy few days as Jean-Ives, Val’s brother-in-law, joined us with his wife and two children. On Boxing Day our daughter Cathy and family came to join us, so we made a party of sixteen.

On the last day of the last year of the century – December 31st 1999 - we were invited in to our neighbours Bernard and Mercedes to join with their friends in a New Year’s celebration party to welcome in the new century with the start of the year 2000 to the sound of Big Ben striking twelve.


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